Time to review best fish-catching lures

- By Al Smith - Guest Columnist

Following some teasing by Mother Nature this spring, one of these days we should begin getting consistent warmer days. With that should come better fishing opportunities.

For those anglers who have not been out yet or have wet a line only a few times, this is the perfect time to review using not only the most versatile, but possibly the best fish-catching lure there is.

A jig is simple since it’s a lure that’s metal weighted heads with a hook molded in that can be dressed with live bait or plastic trailers. They imitate darting, injured baitfish and come in endless sizes, shapes and colors.

Spring is a perfect time to fish them, but they are productive year-round and catch numerous species ranging from panfish to all kinds of game fish.

You can fish jigs from as small as 1/64 ounce to 3/4 ounce or more. They are synonymous with spring walleye runs on rivers throughout the country. In Ohio, anglers flock to the Maumee and Sandusky rivers for walleye in March and April. They use bright colored twister tails on a Carolina-rigged floating jig tipped with a twister tail on an 18 - 24 inch leader with between 1/4 - 5/8 ounce of weight depending on water flow. Anglers on the Sandusky also have been successful tipping a lead head jig with a twister tail and letting it bounce along with the water’s flow.

Jig fishing is fun and easy because there is no “right” way to fish them. An angler can put his personal touch on fishing them. You can drag, bounce, hop, snap, thump or swim a jig with nearly any motion and speed. Twitching the rod tip also helps lure in fish. You find the best method and colors that work for you.

For early panfish, I like fishing one or two 1/64 ounce jigs under a bobber tipped with soft plastics. My favorite colors are an orange/chartreuse combo and a pink/purple combo. I also like a black screwtail on a red jig. Sometimes I downsize to a very small split tail with black or root beer as my favored colors. Experiment with depth until you find the fishes’ strike zone. Twitch the bait slowly back to you or let it ride the current if there is any. This method is good for bluegills and crappies.

As the water warms and fish become more active, I like to swim a 1/32 or /16 ounce jig tipped with a two-inch twister tail or plastic minnow. Experiment with jig size. Sometimes, the fish prefer only the 1/32 ounce jig. You also can use a Roadrunner type jig which has a spinning blade on it. I like using a red jig or a pink for crappies. A stop-and go retrieve can be deadly. Some times, the fish prefer a real slow retrieve. Remember to use the countdown method before retrieving.

A Beetle Spin is a jig with a spinning arm. I’ve caught numerous crappies on this lure. Use either the 1/32 or 1/16. For some reason, black has been my best color. Don’t be afraid to change the jig on this lure and use red or pink.

When I’m panfishing, I prefer a 9 or 10-foot ultralight rod and 4 or 6-pound test line.

When fishing for white bass, especially from one of the many public piers along Lake Ere, I use a 1/8 or 1/4 ounce jig. Most often I tie on two jigs, about 12 to 18 inches apart. I will use a Roadrunner type jig at times. I tip the jigs with white or chartreuse twister tails or a white plastic minnow. Put the the smaller twister tail on the front jig and the minnow on the back. This appears to a white bass as if the minnow is after prey, which often triggers white bass to strike either or both. Double headers are not that uncommon on white bass.

If I’m fishing for walleye or saugeye in a reservoir, I like to tip and a 1/8 or 3/16-ounce ounce jig with a leech or nightcrawler under a bobber. You can also swim such a jig with a twister tail or plastic minnow.

When it comes to bass fishing, if I am not pitching a jig, I like to cast a skirted 1/4 or 3/8-ounce jig tipped with a 3 1/2 to 5-inch plastic minnow as far as I can and let it sink to the bottom. Reel it back at varying speeds, using the stop-and-go method at times and hang on. You can take big (18 to 20-inch) bass this way. I also will use a 1/8 or 3/6-ounce plain jig head tipped with a 3 to 5-inch minnow and swim in back. This works well along a rocky shoreline.

At times, the only lure you need to carry on a fishing trip is various versions of a jig along with the different kinds of trailers you prefer to use.

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Among the most asked questions I receive concern birding and for obvious reasons. Who doesn’t notice or hear birds wherever they are? Unfortunately, many people only know a few species they hear or see.

That can change if you take a free tour for beginners on leaning the basics of birding the next several weeks.

To see a variety of birds, you have to be in the right spot at the right time. I had a treat last week as I checked out a wood duck drake and hen sitting in a tree along the Maumee River in Independence Dam State Park, near Defiance. An added treat was seeing a bald eagle flying toward the dam. I saw it on its return as well.

Free tours sponsored by the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) on April 29, May 20 and June 10 will give participants the opportunity to learn about bird field markers, flight patterns, and behaviors, which combined will help the beginning birder become better acquainted with Ohio’s bird species. DOW professionals will lead the tours and focus on increasing bird identification skills.

Tours will be held from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. Preregistration is required 5 days prior to each tour as spaces are limited. Interested individuals can register by calling Meredith Gilbert at 419-429-8359.

Dates and locations are:

April 29 – Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, 13229 West Ohio 2, Oak Harbor. Participants should meet at the west entrance of the boardwalk in the lake front parking lot.

May 20 – Pearson Metropark, 4600 Starr Ave, Oregon. Participants should meet outside in front of the Packer-Hammersmith Center.

June 10 – Maumee Bay State Park, 1400 State Park Road. Participants should meet outside in front of the nature center.

The tours will be held rain or shine, and participants are encouraged to dress for the weather. Recommended items to bring include layered clothing, comfortable walking shoes, binoculars, field guides, and a notebook. Additional items to consider include bug spray, sunscreen, and a hat. Loaner binoculars are available upon request.


By Al Smith

Guest Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at flyfishman7@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at flyfishman7@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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